U.S. theatre chain launches smart phone app that rewards patrons for not using their phones during screenings

Wide Screen

If U.S. movie theatre chain Cinemark has its way, audiences will soon be able to say goodbye to those distracting texters and phone junkies at screenings, thanks to a new smart phone app. Yes, this is what things have come to.

This week, Cinemark unveiled CineMode, a new feature for their iPhone and Android app which monitors whether the phone's owner is using their phone during a movie. If the app user manages to go two whole hours without tinkering with their phone, Cinemode will reward them with digital coupons that can be redeemed at the company's theatres. Because why respect your fellow moviegoers by exercising a little self control when a smart phone rewards app can do it for you?!

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All a smart phone user has to do is download the app, enter CineMode when prompted by an on-screen reminder, and then avoid using their phone until the movie is over. Seems straight forward enough, but the app is probably giving oblivious and self-centered phone checkers a little too much credit.

"It is important to develop tools that maximize and preserve the movie-going experience," a Cinemark spokesperson said in a press release, apparently not realizing that both carrots and sticks have existed for some time. Given how purposefully vague Cinemark's promotional video for CineMode is, it will be interesting to see if this approach will work. How much does a coupon have to be worth in order to actually prevent someone from checking their phone or writing an email during a movie? Rewarding someone for what should be common courtesy just seems backwards.

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Cinemark's approach isn't a perfect solution to rampant movie texting and phone talking, but at least it's a step in the right direction — and a far better solution than what some film exhibitors have suggested. At CinemaCon earlier this year, theatre chain owners and movie studio executives discussed how best to deal with the growing problem of phone use during movies. Disturbingly, a few even suggest the possibility of catering to texters by offering "phone-friendly" screenings, when what they really should have been pitching were "phone-free" screenings. For the sake of other moviegoers, if you can't go a few hours without staring at your smart phone, you should probably reconsider that night out at the movies. It's the polite thing to do.

Would you pay a little extra for a movie if you knew you wouldn't be distracted by people texting on or checking their phones? Or do you like the idea of being able to use your phone at the movies?